Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Afghans don't trust Canadian forces

Canadian journalist Brian Hutchinson has reported from Afghanistan on a number of occasions since 2006. On returning recently to the country, he penned an interesting assessment of the situation on the ground:

The counterinsurgency is failing in the hinterland. Rural Afghans are still wary of foreign troops, even after almost nine years of intervention. ...

The situation is worst in rural Kandahar, where Canadian soldiers have operated since early 2006 and where they have never been made to feel welcome. Coalition soldiers no longer speak of winning local “hearts and minds.”

Kandaharis are in “self-survival mode,” a senior Canadian officer serving in Kandahar told me recently. “They’ve lived with war for 30 years,” the officer said. “They don’t trust anyone outside of their immediate family.” ...

[Disgraced former Brigadier-General Jonathan Vance's "model village" approach is the] most successful counterinsurgency measure introduced to Kandahar in the past four years.

Unfortunately, that isn’t saying much. Only one “model village” in Kandahar has seen any progress, in terms of stability and development. Deh-e-Bagh in Dand district, just south of Kandahar city, is not trouble-free, but it was peaceful enough this summer that Brig.-Gen. Vance could bring civilians there to walk about. We removed our body armour but we were not without armed escort.

Deh-e-Bagh is just one little village. It’s only a few kilometres removed from Afghanistan’s second largest city, which since July has been ringed by a network of walled vehicle checkpoints, manned by U.S. and Afghan soldiers.

The security ring looks impressive but inside Kandahar city, insurgents continue to target and kill government workers. “People do not look to ISAF forces as a source of protection and security, especially in the city itself,” says Peter Dimitroff, a former Canadian military officer who works as a civilian security advisor inside the provincial capital. ... (link)